TWO top Malaysian opposition leaders are being investigated under the country’s controversial fake news law days ahead of the general elections on May 9.
Police said they are investigating prime ministerial candidate Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and People’s Justice Party (PKR) vice-president Rafizi Ramli over two separate incidences, according to several news reports.
On Wednesday, Kuala Lumpur police chief Comm Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said they were investigating Dr. Mahathir’s claims that his plane was sabotaged before he left for his contested seat in Langkawi, according to The Star.
Three days later, the authorities said Rafizi is under investigation over his remarks on social media about the filing of nomination papers for the election at a district in Negeri Sembilan state.
“We will call up Rafizi and the others involved as soon as possible,” said Negeri Sembilan police chief Noor Azam Jamaludin, as quoted by the state news agency Bernama.
Rafizi said an opposition candidate was not allowed to file his nomination papers.
Malaysia is in the middle of intense campaigning for an election on May 9 that pits Prime Minister Najib Razak against 92-year-old former premier Mahathir.
Critics say the new fake news law is aimed at curbing free speech and criticism of Najib, who is grappling with a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and popular anger over rising living costs.
“I’m going to be charged under the new fake news law… Go ahead and charge me,” Mahathir said at an opposition rally in the administrative capital of Putrajaya on Thursday, as quoted by Reuters.
Najib’s government passed a law in April that criminalises “fake news”, making it one of the first countries to do so. Critics have said the law is aimed at curbing dissent and free speech ahead of the election.
On Monday, a Danish citizen was convicted for inaccurate criticism of police on social media, the first person to be prosecuted under the new law.
Rafizi, a senior leader with the People’s Justice Party (PKR), was sentenced to jail in February for revealing confidential bank details in a 2012 graft scandal.